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Ben Smith wins Smith’s South by-election in a landslide

Ben Smith, voted in as MP for Smith’s South (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The One Bermuda Alliance has retained Constituency 8, Smith’s South, with its candidate, Ben Smith, winning yesterday’s by-election over the Progressive Labour Party challenger Mischa Fubler.

Mr Smith captured 457 votes to 167 for Mr Fubler out of a total vote count of 624.

The number of registered voters in the constituency is 1,311, which means turnout was a fraction less than 48 per cent — well down from the 65 per cent turnout for the 2020 General Election when Cole Simons and Owen Darrel contested the seat, but not out of the ordinary for a by-election.

Mr Smith thanked his opponent and his team, and he fought back tears as he thanked his wife, his “rock”, for the support she provided along with that of his family.

He said: “This is an opportunity for what we can do as a country. Today is a message and I hope that everybody is listening to that message.

“We have to listen to the people in this country. They are suffering. This is our chance to change the direction of this country and I hope that everybody understands that and listens closely to that.

“I want to thank each and every one of them [constituents]. It is important that I talk to my team to focus on the priorities that were given to us on the doorstep, which were education, the economy and healthcare — those are the priorities of the country and those are the things that we have to focus on.

“Now it is not just up to myself but all 36 politicians and the Senate to be paying attention to what the community is looking for us to do, and that is working together.

“I think it is a message from the community. They want to have change.”

Jarion Richardson, the Leader of the Opposition, said that when Mr Simons retired, the party had to decide how to move forward.

“It had to be a mandate, it had to be a clear message, so we set about dedicating resources and time, and I gave the campaign team quite the mandate.

“They responded positively — it was part of the momentum we have been building since 2020, when we started our reform project. We are going to keep moving forward.”

Asked what qualities he admired about Mr Smith, Mr Richardson added: “What’s not to admire? He is forthright and he backs it up with virtue, he speaks from the heart, he works from principles. He is a real team builder.

“It is always a question of ‘we’ — how is Bermuda going to benefit?”

Scott Pearman, the Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs and Home Affairs, said: “This was a good turnout.”

He called it “an opportunity for us to see the tides of politics in Bermuda” and said the OBA was “really starting to gain some traction”.

Mr Darrell said: “We always knew in the PLP that this was going to be an uphill climb. If given more time we could have made some more inroads.

“Mischa is a very intelligent young man – he is very thoughtful and measured. He said from the beginning he wanted to run a clean campaign and he did. Like all of us in the PLP you can see that he has Bermudians in his heart and really wants to represent them to the best of his ability.”

The seat was previously held by Mr Simons, the former Opposition leader, who retired from politics in August.

The by-election pitted Mr Smith, a former MP in Constituency 31, against a fresh face to the political scene.

However, Mr Fubler’s prospects were daunting in a constituency that has never had a PLP MP.

Statement from the PLP

The Progressive Labour Party congratulates Mischa Fubler on his immense effort to turn this seat green and by his solid performance today.

Mischa and our team worked hard in C8. However, we knew from the beginning it was an uphill battle as residents on this part of the island have never been represented by anyone but the UBP or OBA.

Despite the result, we take comfort in the fact that the people of Smith’s South, and Bermuda in general, saw the quality of our candidate. Mischa is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to what the public will see from the next generation of PLP candidates.

We look forward to Mischa holding Ben Smith to account in Constituency 8 and continuing to advocate on behalf of its residents.

Finally, we thank all that came out to participate in today's democratic by-election process.

Speaking before the result was called, Mr Smith spoke on some national issues that he had discussed with constituents, the main ones being the need for affordable healthcare and better education.

On local issues, he said: “The roads — we have a senior population but we also have a population who would like to be able to walk around but because of the state of the roads and the way things are growing out into the roads it is dangerous. We need lighting in the area. These are things we can tackle quite quickly.

“Crime is another issue that has been coming up. People have been watching each other's backs, you have neighbourhood watches popping up, but constituents believe there needs to be more policemen on the beat.

“That's something we have to discuss strongly, making sure we have a police service that is at the level it needs to be to ensure our citizens are safe. We need to have a bigger police presence throughout the island.”

Speaking about his opponent, Mr Smith said Mr Fubler had some interesting points.

“The only problem I have is that they don't match his party. It's going to be interesting to see how that will resonate in the bigger room, like some of the things he has brought up about immigration, for example. If your team isn't willing to action your ideas, I'm not sure you are able to do much.”

Mr Fubler said before the result was called: “If I’m not successful, to continue in Smith’s South is my plan.

“Ideally I would want to run in my own constituency, but I have family ties to Smith’s South, and with a significant portion being agricultural or open space like Spittal Pond, it’s an excellent place to advocate for my ideas for environmental protection and stewardship.”

On the response on the doorstep, he said: “It was largely supportive. I had cases where people were not polite and I appreciated those who were.

“Some were a little coy in being unwilling to engage in dialogue but I also felt I resonated with constituents. I had instances where people said, ‘I vote OBA but I wanted you to know you have my support’.”

He said the top issues with people canvassed had been very individual. “I was surprised,” he said.

“The demographic here is about 45 per cent aged 60 and older. I expected healthcare but many brought up education. I was glad to see that. My daughter is a P1 student at Purvis.

“I feel we need to continue our efforts to ensure that our economic recovery is felt by the workers of Bermuda.”

Smith’s South last had a by-election in July 2001, when the constituency was won by Maxwell Burgess for the United Bermuda Party in the wake of the retirement of the late C.V. “Jim” Woolridge.

Mr Simons, who stepped down as an MP and leader of the OBA on August 8, won the constituency for the UBP in the 2003 General Election.

In the July 2017 General Election, Mr Simons held it comfortably for the OBA, with 729 votes, or 71.61 per cent, compared with 274 votes to Roseann Tucker, of the Progressive Labour Party, and 15 votes to the independent candidate Gershwyn Smith.

The PLP narrowed the margin in the General Election of October 2020, when Mr Simons held his seat with 547 votes or 63.24 per cent. There were 318 votes for Mr Darrell.

The results showed more than 200 voters opting to stay at home than 2020, but it delivered a broad margin in the OBA’s favour on a par with 2017.

Mr Fubler thanked his wife for “accommodating this endeavour”, along with the voters of Constituency 8 who “came out to support me today”.

“This will not be the last time you see me.”

He added: “I’m looking forward to getting out and meeting those I did not meet in our six weeks of canvassing.”

Mr Fubler said he supported “partnership on both sides as opposed to looking to score cheap political points”.

He said he hoped that the PLP branch for Smith’s South would choose him to run in the next General Election.

He noted that 47 per cent of registered voters had come out.

“It seems some folks are content with the current state.”

Mr Fubler highlighted his wish to bring a small farmer’s market to the constituency and urged those in Smith’s South and across the island involved in agriculture to support the move.

“Please reach out,” he said.

Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier, told The Royal Gazette that he was “proud and happy with the performance of our candidate — a young, new aspiring politician who came on to the scene in this district and solid support for himself.

“We knew it would be an uphill battle but believe we presented the country with a bright new talent that represents the future of Bermuda and the future of the party.”

Mr Roban said the overall turnout “may have been dramatically different from 2020”, adding: “I think the OBA cannot claim this as a serious victory with a depressed turnout of their own supporters.

“In a constituency that usually has a high turnout, hundreds did not turn out. That cannot be seen as a vindication of their efforts.”

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Published October 06, 2023 at 8:02 am (Updated October 06, 2023 at 8:52 am)

Ben Smith wins Smith’s South by-election in a landslide

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